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September 6, 2007

From the road: Lucky stars

Rivals.com's staff of recruiting analysts offer thoughts on things they learned while on the road scouting some of the nations top prospects. Here is a closer look at some of the storylines and recruiting scoop from the big weekend in high school football.

Jeremy Crabtree, Rivals.com Recruiting Editor
Third time's the charm: After seeing Andrew Luck at two different events this spring and summer, there was no question that he was one of the nation's top quarterbacks in this year's class. But after seeing him for a third time last Thursday night under the Friday Night Lights, you could make an argument that he's a player worthy of five-star consideration.

While he might not wow you with a cannon arm like Blaine Gabbert, or he might not ooze potential like E.J. Manuel, Luck proved he should be mentioned in the same conversation as those guys. He also proved that his No. 75 overall national ranking might be too low.

Every time his team needed a big play, Luck came through, helping his team come away with a 21-17 victory at Tully Stadium. Luck, who is heading to Stanford, has looked great in every event that Rivals.com has evaluated him at this summer, including the Texas 7-on-7 state tournament and the EA Sports Elite 11, but Thursday night he was on another totally different level.

There were quite a few drops by his receivers that would have easily padded his stats even more, but where he truly excelled was patience and poise in the pocket. With three or four defenders in his face on almost every pass play, Luck always seemed to be able to a little something to find the extra second needed to complete the pass.

The Cardinal got a good one in Luck, and he's the type of signal caller that you can build a program around. Humble and confident, Luck's got it all.

Madisonville's Mustangs: Everybody is already well aware of 2009 athlete Chris Whaley of Madisonville, Texas. The highly touted blue-chip prospect is already starting to rack up offers from schools, including a recent offer from Texas A&M. But on Friday, it was his brother, Alonzo Whaley, that really caught my eye in a game against Navasota, Texas.

Whaley, who is 6-foot and 220 pounds, had around 15 tackles on defense and several big runs on the offensive side of the ball from his fullback position. He also opened up some major holes for his brother to run through, helping the Mustangs come away with a 28-13 victory.

Chris Whaley also had his moments. He's listed currently as a running back in the database, but maybe it's best to list him as an athlete. Whaley plays hard, and he's a very durable prospect that does show flashes of explosive ability. Even though he did have 133 yards and two touchdowns Friday night, he doesn't look like a natural at the running back spot. Once he got on track in the second half, he couldn't be stopped as he was deadly on toss sweeps and off tackle runs, but he didn't have that natural running ability that you look for in the great ones.

Two sleepers that emerged: There's something about proving it under the game lights, instead of camps and combines, and that's what we saw in Texas from a guy like Trent Hunter from Katy, Texas. The Kansas State commitment is listed as a two-star player, but he played much bigger than that in a victory over Klein. He returned the opening kickoff 101-yards and then also blocked a field goal attempt. His game is all about speed and it looks like the Wildcats got themselves a good one.

Madisonville, Texas, tight end J.D. Standley isn't a name known by many, but against Navasota he was all over the field making big plays on both sides of the ball. He's a legit 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, and he did show great hands. Schools in the market for a versatile definitely need to give this small-school star a long look.

Mike Farrell, Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst
Notre Dame has its nose tackle: Arguably the hardest position to recruit in college football is a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. That was the challenge ahead of the Notre Dame coaching staff when new defensive coordinator Corwin Brown installed such a scheme in South Bend.

Based on early returns, Buford, Ga. defensive tackle Omar Hunter is the perfect fit. Hunter plays low with excellent leverage, he's surprisingly athletic for a big man and he's quick off the ball. And most importantly, Hunter occupies blockers and demands a great deal of attention from the offensive line.

Terrelle Pryor needs a challenge: Pryor threw or ran the ball only five times in his team's 60-0 win over Brownsville, Pa., this past weekend. On the first play from scrimmage, Pryor ran around left tackle for a 53-yard touchdown and it was clear he could do that anytime he wanted. Pryor will face some good teams this year but he's ready for the challenge of college football.

Ohio State leader for Hale?: Much has been made about Monroeville (Pa.) Gateway teammates and cousins Shayne Hale and Cameron Saddler being a package deal to Michigan or another school but Gateway head coach Terry Smith thinks the two could end up at different schools. While Saddler likes many schools with Michigan, Virginia and West Virginia near the top, Smith thinks Hale will choose between Michigan and Ohio State in the end with the Buckeyes holding the slight edge. Hale and Saddler were scheduled to take an official visit to Michigan together on Sept. 14 but Hale might have to delay his trip to Ann Arbor.

Barton Simmons, Recruiting Analyst
Big game Hunter: In an opening night game between Klein and Katy, the big names on the field were Ohio State commit J.B. Shugarts for Klein and UCLA commit Aundre Dean from Katy, but undersized safety Trent Hunter stole the show. Hunter, who is committed to Kansas State, was contributing everywhere on the field. He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and he followed that up by returning the first punt deep into Klein territory. When he lined up on the edge in the field goal block team, you couldn't help but keep an eye on him and sure enough, the safety scooted right in for a block.

On defense Hunter was clearly the bell cow for his high-powered Katy team. When the team needs a big return, he's back deep to field the ball. When Katy needs a punt blocked he's rushing at the line. And he is all over the field on defense, throwing his body around and flying to the ball. You have to love his enthusiasm and intensity. He may be a little undersized but Hunter has that playmaking ability and nose for the ball that you can't teach. He's definitely the type of player you want on your team.

Luck's night: If Andrew Luck had already proven himself as a drop back passer before last weekend, he certainly made a statement about the rest of his skills against Cy-Fair. In the second half of play in which every snap was huge, Luck was near perfect in leading his team to a win. He made plays with his feet all night that varied from subtle to impressive to spectacular. More importantly, Luck was extremely poised on every snap, making the right decisions and the right throws. He would buy himself time with his legs, and make clutch throws in and out of the pocket. It was clear from the sidelines that he's got the intangibles to place him among the best quarterbacks in the nation.

McGuffie's secret weapons: One disappointment from a weekend of Texas football was the ankle sprain that ended Sam McGuffie's game against Houston Stratford. In the second half though, the Cy-Fair running game was hardly ineffective. Fullback Wesley Cobb stepped in and picked right up gashing the Houston Stratford defense. Chris Lathrop led a very impressive offensive line that was consistently opening up big holes for the backs. While McGuffie provides that speed that can turn a four yard gain into a 40-yarder, it's clear that he has a powerful offensive line in front of him that can really open up some running lanes.

Junior league: A trip to Madisonville, Texas to check out two of the state's top juniors was mildly disappointing. Chris Whaley of Madisonville and Dexter Pratt of Navasota were good but not spectacular in a 28-13 Madisonville win. Both players played strictly running back for their 3A programs, though both, particularly Pratt, may be best suited for a different position at the next level.

Pratt was rumored to start on both sides of the ball, which would have set up some intriguing Whaley vs. Pratt battles. But the 6-2, 220-pound junior never saw a defensive snap. Though each player showed some flashes of his ability on the rain-soaked field, it is frustrating to think of some of the clashes that might have occurred between the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Whaley with the ball in his hands, and Pratt, with his size and quickness, tracking him down on the other side of the ball.

Chad Simmons, Recruiting Analyst
Rock solid: Illinois is getting a big-time safety prospect in Donsay Hardeman out of Georgia Military. He had offers from the big Florida schools and most of the SEC was after him. He is a big hitter, he can cover and he brings another winning attitude to Ron Zook and the Illini. He could be a rover type or outside linebacker for Illinois. He is very solid in his commitment even though other schools have not backed off completely.

One to watch: Andre Harris of Hampton (Ga.) Lovejoy could be the best offensive line prospect in Georgia come 2009. He stands 6-foot-4 and weighs around 350 pounds, but moves like he weighs closer to 320 pounds. He can run block and pass block. He will be one of the top linemen recruited next year in the Peach State.

Wanted man: Pound for pound, there may not be a better football player in the metro Atlanta area than Jonathan Davis. He delivers big hits from the linebacker position, he makes big runs as a running back and he plays with a high level of intelligence on the football field. He is only 5 feet 9 and 205 pounds, but he has power, he has speed, he has skills and he will be a wanted man in 2009.

Showing potential: College Park (Ga.) Banneker Steven Fowlkes is a great pick up for Tennessee. He is thin, but very athletic and quick off the edge at defensive end. He needs to add weight and strength, but he has the frame to do that without losing his speed. He had two sacks and three tackles for a loss last week against Stephenson.

Complete player: Toby Jackson looked like a man amongst boys last Thursday when Griffin, Ga., opened up against Lithia Spring in the pouring rain. He was getting double- and triple-teamed throughout the night, but yet he was still finding his way to the offensive backfield. Jackson is very strong against the pass when rushing the QB and he is getting better at defending the run. He has transformed himself into a more complete defensive end.

Commitment coming?: Tucker, Ga., cornerback Neiko Lipscomb would like to make an early commitment, but he says he has to visit Michigan State, Alabama and Auburn first. Those three along with Georgia are his finalists, but the only school he has visited is UGA. He has family in Michigan, so the Spartans are a school to watch.

Irish in his blood: Tucker, Ga., safety Jamoris Slaughter said he is playing for Notre Dame this year and he hopes to represent them well. He thoroughly enjoyed his visit to South Bend last weekend and says he is one hundred percent committed to Notre Dame.

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